This morning, the Tampa Bay Rays made a splash by extending 25-year-old starter Chris Archer to a six-year extension worth about $25 million. The deal will run through the young pitcher's arbitration years and buy out a year or two of Archer's free agency years. While bigger names like Clayton Kershaw and Homer Bailey agreed to contract extensions over $100 million in the off-season, several other pitchers were locked up in extensions as well. The White Sox secured Jose Quintana for five years and $21 million. Julio Teheran will be on the Braves for next six years and receive $32.5 million. The Pirates signed Charlie Morton for three years and $21 million, and in maybe the best deal of them all, the Rangers locked up Martin Perez for four years and $12 million. Almost all of these deals have club options included, allowing the teams even more control over their players' futures.
With all of these affordable contracts being issued to quality young pitchers around baseball, should the Yankees consider securing Ivan Nova's services? Nova was eligible for arbitration for the first time in 2014, and he and the Yankees avoided it by agreeing to a one-year, $3.3 million contract. If nothing changes, he will be up for arbitration again in 2015 and 2016, then hit the free agent market during the 2016-17 off-season. It's extremely difficult to predict what this team will look like one year from now, let alone three years from now, but it would be very nice to have at least one pitcher with a decent chance of success then to not be riding a big contract into that season. As of now, the only players with payroll committed to that campaign are Masahiro Tanaka, Alex Rodriguez (lol), Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, and Brett Gardner (CC Sabathia also has a $25 vesting option provided that he is healthy in 2016). That's a fine core aside from an over-40 A-Rod (who would probably just get bought out at that point), but it lacks in pitching at the moment.
There's no hiding the fact that extending Nova now would certainly carry some risk. After all, he seemed lost for almost a year and a half after his fine rookie campaign in 2011 and only re-established himself in the Yankees' future by posting a team-leading 2.59 ERA with a 2.7 BB/9 and .639 OPS against from July onward. Fans can hope that the second-half Nova is more representative of who the 27-year-old will be going forward, but as of now, it's far from certain. Nonetheless, Nova's career to date compares pretty well with all five of the other pitchers in their twenties who were recently extended:
Nova is certainly a better pitcher than Morton, and while at the moment, his numbers are not better than Quintana's, one could argue that they are better than everyone else on the list. Obviously, Nova had a couple seasons head start on the starters who were still rookies last year in Archer and Perez, but perhaps his somewhat longer career means he is ever-so-slightly more of a sure thing than them. Also relevant: dat curve.
Courtesy of the Fundamentals Blog
If the Yankees do decide to extend Nova, then they will be taking a chance that his 2013 numbers are for real. However, in general, the earlier a team offers a player an extension, the lower they can make it since the player doesn't have an extremely long track record. If the Yankees were to offer Nova a comparable extension, it seems reasonable to think that, given his older age and point in arbitration than most of them, he might seriously consider a four-year extension worth $30 million. Such an offer would immediately bump his 2015 and 2016 salary up to $7.5 million each, a figure higher than anything Phil Hughes (the only other young Yankees starter from the past several years) received in arbitration. It would buy out two free agent years and give the Yankees a solid shot at ensuring some rotation stability in the not-so-distant future.
It's understandable if the Yankees chose not to offer Nova an extension right now since they do have the financial wherewithal to withstand sweet pitcher coin if they feel they can only give it to Nova after he actually establishes that 2013 Nova was for real. Nova's high potential suggests that this could be his year though, and Grantland's Jonah Keri tapped Nova as a breakout candidate for 2014. If the Yankees organization shares Keri's confidence that Nova is about to have a big year and subsequent big raise, would it really hurt them so much to offer him a low-cost extension now? It's definitely worth some consideration.